The Women’s Network brought forward the “support the right to choose” motion at the SU Council on the 5th of February 2013.

This proposal stated that the SU should provide more support for students who fall pregnant during their time at the University.

After a debate, the Council agreed to put it up to a referendum in order to give all students of the University of Nottingham the opportunity to vote.

The Council had planned to address this issue at their last meeting on December 11th 2012, in the wake of the Abort67 visit to University Park Campus, but it was delayed due to Council no longer being quorate.

Rose Bonner, Women’s Officer, commented that “such a contentious issue would require a long debate.”

Student Charlotte Abbs said at the December Council, “I’m not really sure why the council needs to declare itself as either pro-choice or pro-life. They’re supposed to be here to represent all of their students so the idea of them taking a position on this doesn’t really seem to make sense to me.”

To clarify the motion’s meaning  in the February Council meeting, the Women’s Network changed its name from“Pro-choice” to “Support the right to choose”, saying the original title “caused confusion”.

“We are supporting both pro-choice and pro-life,” said Bonner.

She stated that the aims of the motion were to support “the right of women to choose what they want with their own bodies.”

“This policy is not saying that everyone should have an abortion. It’s a policy that gives a clear message to students that the union supports their choice.”

Sian Green, Accommodation and Community Officer said she will be voting against the motion, saying that, “I don’t think we need to have a policy on pro-choice.” She added that some students had “actively told me they’ve felt alienated by it.”

Others voiced concerns that such a policy would not safeguard people who might want to keep their child, raising the issue that the information about the nature of the support is not mentioned in the report.

Like Nottingham, the majority of universities do not take a stance on abortion, but it appears that this is changing.

Bonner said, “Because of Abort 67 a lot of other Universities are trying to introduce pro-choice policies, including Cambridge, Oxford and UCL. Sheffield, for example, recently became a pro-choice.”

“Supporting this motion does not make us a pro-abortion union. It’s a continuation of a policy we’ve already had before on sexual health,” stated the LGBT officer, Charlotte Bezant. She stressed that students “wouldn’t face judgement whatever choice they make”.

Women’s Network General Committee member, Fran Cowling, suggested that putting the motion to the student body through a referendum might be the fairest way. “Everyone in this Union should be given the opportunity to vote,” she said.

The majority of Council voted for a referendum on the “support the right to choose” motion.
Rose Bonner was happy with the decision and she commented that it would be more “truly representative of students’ views.”

The Women’s Network is now looking to organise a campaign to raise student awareness of the referendum to encourage a high voter turnout.

Natalie Popow

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